Friday, September 10, 2004

The Halle Berry Syndrome

Watching Andre Agassi dismantle Roger Federer in the second set of the U.S. Open quarterfinals Wednesday night, I was struck with memories of how good he used to be, followed by how bad he used to be.

Though Agassi wound up losing in five sets to Federer, who looks too much like Antonio Banderas for me not to mention it, I got to thinking about the chronology of Agassi's demise, his marriage to Brooke Shields, his rise to the top, and his divorce from Shields. Wow!

Intrigued, I kept digging and have developed what I call the "Halle Berry Syndrome." The basic principle of HBS is the hotter the wife is, the worse the athlete becomes.

It's bad enough when a woman breaks a man's heart, but does she have to destroy his career and bring the value of his memorabilia below that of gas prices in 1984. It's plain wrong. Not nearly as wrong as wearing a blue shirt with brown pants, but very close.

A look at history's support of the HBS, in order of devastation:

1) Tiger Woods -- Forget cameramen and crazy caddies and new clubs and the absence of swing coach Bruce Harmon, the slow and steady decline of Tiger rests on the shoulders of Elin Nordegren, the stunning blonde Swedish model. Is it a coincidence that Tiger got engaged this calendar year and he is no longer the No. 1 ranked player in the world? Tiger was No. 1 for five years.

Engaged for less than one and all of a sudden, he's No. 2. Funny how that works. And Tiger hasn't won a major in more than two years.

2) Andre Agassi -- We all remember those commercials about he came from 141st in the world a few years ago to No. 1 and U.S. Open champion. Little of that is credited to the removal of Brooke Shields from the joint checking account in 1999.

The two married in 1997. Agassi won zero events that year, and just five in 1998. In 1999, after the annoucement of an impending divorce from Shields, quite possibly the quintessential classic American beauty of the 1980s and 90s, Agassi returns to greatness and wins the French and U.S. Opens. He finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world.

Upon marrying Steffi Graf, a winner of 4 million Grand Slam events, later on in life, Agassi remains one of Top 10 players in the world. (Out of respect for Agassi, we will not speak of the Barbra Streisand fling/debacle/moment of weakness every man goes through once in his life).

3) David Justice -- Every experiment needs a control and Justice is it. He's also the guinea pig for this experiment, giving him one of the rarest double-doubles in sports history. Justice began his career with the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year.

In 1993, he married Halle Berry, who if not the most beautiful woman in the solar system, then certainly our little rock of matter called Planet Earth. He had a monster year in 1993, believed to be attributed to first-year marital bliss. Then (turn on Emeril voice now), BAM! (turn off Emeril voice now). His career found the dumper, culminating in a season-ending shoulder injury in 1996, followed shortly thereafter by a divorce from Berry. Ouch.

No man should suffer through those two events in the same calendar year. Justice eventually turned his career around and resumed a productive role in baseball.

4) Derek Jeter -- He learned one of the most valuable lessons never chronicled accurately in history until this very moment: Always, always, always be careful when entering into a relationship with a woman from Long Island.

This is further proven true by "Star Wars." At the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker marries Padme, played by Natalie Portman, who just happens to be from Syosset. Anakin Skywalker will turn to the dark side of the force in Episode III, and we all know about Darth Vader's long history of Imperial torture and doom.

Jeter had a well-documented relationship with Mariah Carey for a few months in the early part of 1998. Jeter ended April with a .261 batting average that year. The relationship ended in early May and he closed out that month hitting .329. It had little to do with seeing the baseball better and everything to do with not having that crazy lady in his life anymore. The Yankees went on to win 125 games that season, including the World Series. Jeter hit .324 for the season. He glittered that year.

5) Jason Kidd & Jimmy Jackson -- We all know the silky, sultry voice of Toni Braxton is making us high, but Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson couldn't breathe the same air again after she allegedly pick-and-rolled with the two when they played for Dallas.

Rumor has it Braxton was supposed to date Jason Kidd in November of 1995, but Jimmy Jackson stole the ball and ran out on a fast break. Kidd and Jackson fervently deny the rumors, but Braxton's weak, ambivalent denials keep the rumors alive longer than any of her songs lasted on the Billboard charts. Jackson was traded to the Nets in the middle of the 1996-97 season and he finished with his second-worst scoring season of the decade. Hey, it's Jersey, can you blame him?

Kidd was dealt to Phoenix that same season and finished with the third worst assist average of his career. It's just another sad HBS song rocking our brains.

6) Derek Jeter -- You have to give both mack-daddy props and a smack upside the head to a man who appears on this list more than once. That's some kind of stubbornness when it comes to the ladies, not unlike Many from "Scarface." Early in 2003, Jeter was romantically linked to Jordana Brewster of "Fast and the Furious" fame, if such a movie can be called famous.

On March 31, 2003, Opening Day in Toronto no less, when every team is in first place, Jeter slid head first into third base and has his shoulder separated. He missed the next six weeks. The couple fizzled (her choice of movie roles had nothing to do with it). Jeter returned to hit .324 and lead the Yankees to another World Series appearance.

7) Scott Erickson -- Though we must note the demise of Erickson began before the start of this relationship, this marriage is the HBS version of Rocky II when Rocky and Apollo both get knocked down at the end of Round 15. Erickson married former actress/former sportscaster/former Monday Night Football sideline reporter Lisa Guerrero in February 2004. Two days later, he signed a deal to pitch for the Mets. Things are looking up for Erickson. For about three minutes. He strained his groin in the bullpen warming up for regular-season debut, then gets sent to the DL until July.

Soon after, the Mets released Erickson. He caught on with Texas, invoking the "Evander Holyfield Principle," which states an athlete nevers knows when to quit even when it's obvious to everyone. He made a few starts and is again designated for assignment, a fancy term for "turn in your glove and go home, you're done." Guerrero's stint as MNF reporter lasted one season. She was replaced by Michele Tafoya in May. Anyone heard from her lately? The referee's count is at 9 and the two years left on her ABC deal gives Guerrero the best chance of getting standing before the countout.

Even the richest, most talented people are not impervious to HBS. It's a shame to see good people destroyed by love/lust.

Halle Berry was so good to us. She gave us the club scene in "Strictly Business." She wore those chaps in the cage in "The Last Boy Scout." Then there's "Swordfish," arguably the greatest movie of all time, next to "Monster's Ball," (this is a family web site, so I can't explain why. If you don't know why, rent the movies. If you know why, buy the movies.)

Still, we should have been more astute. With those cinematic gems put forth by Halle, the principles of HBS tell us something else must happen, and it's called "Race the Sun."

P.S. Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams recently became engaged to Destiny Child's Kelly Rowland, so keep an eye on him this season.

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